September 13, 2009 2 Comments
I really wish I was the people type. I wish I didn’t mind sales, or crowded bars, or concerts, or public transport. But I do, I do. I dread any situation in which my personal space might get encroached upon. This is my problem, rather than anyone else’s, I know, and I think my life would be rather nicer if I could stand it. And I wouldn’t have dreaded the food festival, which I last went to two years ago, a huge event full of organic producers and retailers. It stretched across Bristol Harbourside, there seemed like thousands of stalls and seemingly, tens of thousands of people – there can’t have been that many. It was horrific. But yet, despite being pushed around, and prodded and ignored and trodden on, I came home with bags and bags full of stuff which I had been inspired to buy. It was worth it, but only just. I didn’t go last year, possibly I couldn’t face it, maybe I was on holiday. But I decided this year, thinking Greedy Boy might appreciate it (how wrong can one woman be?), that we would go.
And it wasn’t a nightmare. It wasn’t. It wasn’t heaving with people. Without trying too hard I could get to the front of most stalls, unless they were giving away free samples of something with perceived value, and try things, pick up leaflets, talk to stall holders. Mostly. And most stall holders were charming, well informed people – I did have one woman telling me that her cobnuts were ‘fat free’, which did make me laugh. But what can you do? But it wasn’t.. it just wasn’t a totally great day out. Entry was £5 per adult, which isn’t a great deal of money, but I did wonder exactly what we were supposed to be paying for, especially since the size of the festival was probably about a third as it had been in previous years? This is the ‘largest organic gathering in Europe’ apparently and I could have walked from one end to the other in less than 10 minutes. Was it the Kids Taste Tent, a small and sparsely populated tent, the main attraction of which appeared to be face painting. Which my son might have been interested in had there not been a need to put his name down on a list… Me: ‘how long is the wait?’ Attractive, pleasant woman acting as door security: ‘uhhh… I don’t know. Ten minutes maybe?’ If your name’s not on the list, Son, you’re not going in. Or was it to see Wallis and Gromit? Who were allegedly there, but we only saw their pictures on the side of baking kits marketed to children. Or was it the opportunity to visit such famed organic food names as Daily Mail owned local rag, The Evening Post? Rathbone Greenbank Investments (mmh, lovely pasties.. oh, what do you mean, this key facts document isn’t food)? Solarsense? The NHS? Or perhaps to squeeze in to buy an overpriced pint in the one festival bar (sponsors Fuller’s Honeydew ensures there is no other organic draught beer or lager on tap)? Was it the live .. ahem..entertainment? Was it the opportunity to watch live cookery demonstrations, which being around at the times listed in the brochure, we were still unable to find? Or was the point to buy stuff from the people selling food, drink, organic box schemes, bed linen, and cosmetics? Or was it to fund the Soil Association? God knows. I think I could resist paying again though.
It wasn’t all bad news. In between the water filter retailers, and the people selling chicken coops, I did meet some interesting people. We bought some beautiful beef, which I roasted for lunch today. We bought some lovely bacon, cookies, carrots, cheese. Greedy Boy and Mr Greedy enjoyed their burgers, and had I been hungrier, I could have had some amazing looking jerk chicken, or curry, or crepes. We had an oyster from a fresh seafood bar, we did have that overpriced pint and bought GreedyBoy an undrinkable organic drink (Kylie drinks it does she? Is that why it costs so much?). We wandered around in the sunshine. Nobody stood on my foot.
Maybe it’s the recession that has driven those smaller organic companies away. Maybe its the recession that has stopped this being a packed out event. I didn’t see a great deal of marketing for it, but I do wander around half asleep much of the time. But in my view, if the soil association wants these events to flourish in the same way as say, the Taste festivals or the Good Food shows, in my view they’re going to have to offer a great deal more bang for the buck in future years. People who put a lot of weight on buying organic, fairly produced food aren’t always the same people who fling around fivers like confetti when money is tight.